Exotic destinations continue to draw large groups of fun-seeking travellers but in recent years, resorts and vacation homes in the areas are seeing more members of the business community. In 2018, more than 3.1 million Canadians travelled to Asia and the Pacific, including India, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam. During the summer season alone, 1.5 million Canadian business travellers head for these destinations, an increase of close to five percent.

An unknown risk

Before venturing into these remote areas, tourists and business people need to be aware of the realities in this region. One of the notable differences is the exposure to a variety of mosquito transmitted diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, the Zika virus, and Japanese encephalitis (JE).

Depending on your itinerary, your length of stay and your planned activities, a vaccine against Japanese encephalitis may also be considered.

The latter, although a lesser known disease, deserves particular attention. Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that is changing rapidly and can be contracted mainly in Asia. The virus is transmitted by a mosquito that is found mainly in flooded rice fields and rural areas. “Travellers who venture out of the big cities and spend a significant amount of time outdoors are much more likely to be exposed to insect bites," explains Dr. Dominique Tessier, Clinical Director of Health Travel Group clinics. While most infections are asymptomatic — the majority of those affected do not show any symptoms — clinical disease can develop in 1 in 50,000 infected persons and may have serious health consequences such as inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), seizures, coma, and death.

Get protected

You can reduce your chances of getting infected by using insect repellent, wearing long pants and long sleeves, and by sleeping in air-conditioned or well-screened rooms or by using bed nets. Depending on your itinerary, your length of stay and your planned activities, a vaccine against Japanese encephalitis may also be considered. This vaccine is recommended especially for people who will be exposed to mosquitos through extensive outdoor activities and those who will be staying in rural areas for a month or more.

“If travelers go backpacking for four or five months, they will be spending some time in cities and some time in rural areas, which means they are likely to spend more than three or four weeks in rural areas,” Dr. Tessier notes. “In cases like these, we will often recommend the vaccine.”

To learn more about the different precautions to take before your next trip, consult a healthcare professional in a travel health clinic at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to departure. Feel free to ask questions, they are trained to answer them and can provide you with specific travel recommendations.